Our Campus Leaders: Student Government at WNMU

Our Campus Leaders: Student Government at WNMU

The Associated Students of Western New Mexico University, also referred to as Student Government, is a great opportunity for students to get involved on campus. The students that participate in Student Government represent what it means to be a student at Western New Mexico University because they are our campus leaders. The members of Student Government are responsible individuals that have to deal with multiple obligations other than being a student and they value the protection of student rights.

“Our main role is student rights, that is number one. Whatever the problem is, it can be grade wise, it can be communication wise, it can be anything up to sexual harassment,” said Student Government President, Tim Stillman.

Student Government is there to help students. If a student is having a problem with a professor, a staff member or another student, consider addressing it with Student Government. Student Government can also help with issues regarding housing, admissions, financial aid, or other aspects of campus life.

“Student Government is there to help represent student needs. We also help with student projects financially with approval and we complete the fees proposal every year,” said Student Government Vice President, Dylan Kester.

Many of the students who participate in Student Government have multiple responsibilities, such as being a student-athlete or maintaining a work study job. Students in Student Government learn important skills such as time management and communication to accomplish their goals. The members of Student Government also learn how to support and encourage each other if they are having difficulty.

“It’s always been a hard thing. Some have more time to go towards their leadership than others. I think as a whole typically within Student Government we become a family. If someone starts slipping off the rope, we have got seventeen others to pick that student back up and/or help them. Collaboratively we can all take care of what needs to be done without losing that quality of service towards our students. At an individual basis it can be hard. That’s why I think there’s a good reason why there are so many of us,” said Stillman.

“This year’s student government is really efficient. Even though every member has an extremely busy schedule, they have been able to fulfill their duties as a Student Government member. This year we are hoping to get some student input to make the organization even better,” said Kester.

Every spring semester new members are elected into Student Government. At the start of the fall semester the new members begin to discuss with the reelected members their ideas for what they would like to see at the university.

“To me this is a whole new chapter of Student Government, because last year was really about getting the constitution in line and basically breaking down Student Government back to its bare bones and rebuilding it. This year we are trying to now learn what Student Government is now that we have the foundation set. A couple things that I would want to do is send our team members to actual Student Government national conferences so that they can learn what student government is. I know that there are a lot of things that we are not doing because we don’t know that we can do those types of things. With that comes major events and other funding sources,” said Stillman.

Student Government also participates in creating activities and events for students. An example that has been popular among the students are their free snow cones from their snow cone machine. Student Government makes choices about what they want to spend money on each year and they have been picking many items that can be used multiple times for multiple events. “What we have been doing is building up our inventory. We do our own activities based off of what students want,” said Stillman.

Student Government plays an important role in protecting student rights. Every department has a senator that is responsible for listening to the concerns of the students in their district. If students have any needs or ideas for how to better our campus, letting your Student Government representative know can be helpful in solving problems for students.

“If it’s a non-emergency issue, that’s what our senators are for. If they don’t know who their senator is or if they are having problems getting ahold of them, they should then come to me or Dylan. If it’s an emergency, I would say email me or call me. My cell phone number and my email are online,” said Stillman. Students can search on the WNMU website for ‘student president’ and the President of Student Government’s contact information will appear. Students can also find out online who their senator is for their district.

The university needs to know that the reports of the problems that are occurring are real. Having the voice of the student that was directly affected by the problem is more tangible to the university. If the goal is to create change then using the name of the student directly affected by the problem is more effective. Reporting anonymously is easier for many students who might be afraid of reporting using their name, but the administration is able to better help with the situation if they can investigate the problem and talk to the student who was affected.

“With the administration, it’s very hard for me to do anything without the actual victim’s voice. On the student’s part if they are scared of course they are not going to want to come forward, so it’s a very hard position to be in,” said Stillman.

If a student wishes to remain anonymous, this is still infinitely more helpful than not reporting at all because then administration will be aware that the issue is effecting students and needs to be addressed.

“Some students are still young and they get intimidated and they feel like they can’t tell anyone other then their friends, which then nothing happens with it. Whereas if they can come and talk to us students, it’s less intimidating and we have the power to try and mediate that and actually do something about it. Students can always come to me anonymously. We can meet in my office or if they are in fear of going to a place on campus where they may be seen then we can meet outside, or we can go get coffee off grounds just so they can get it off their chest. From there it’s up to them what they want me to do. Once they’ve told me, I don’t have to take action if they don’t want me to. If they just want to vent to someone who has power, then that’s fine, they can tell me. If they want me to actually take action, then I can do that too whether it’s anonymous or not. It’s completely up to the student and I never do anything without their consent,” said Stillman.

It is important for students to know that they can use Student Government as a resource whether they choose to remain anonymous or not because Student Government is there to help students and they will fight to protect student rights.

“It is important to know that someone has their back, someone who cares, and someone who is willing to dedicate their time to do what’s right for them. If I had a problem as a student and I wasn’t in student government and I felt like there was no entity that I could go to and I was in fear of talking to the administration, what am I going to do? I’m not going to do anything. I’m going to keep my mouth shut because it feels like no one has my back. If I knew that I could go to someone that might have the power to do something and still be anonymous I would do it,” said Stillman.

Student Government has the power to influence change at this university. The members of Student Government are dedicated to protecting student rights and they will advocate for them if needed.

“We have quite a bit of power, more than a student by themselves. If a student has Student Government backing them, then obviously it’s a big enough issue. If it’s not that big of an issue we will try and handle it with the student, but if it’s something like sexual harassment we can get involved all the way to Dr. Shepard. We can move it all the way up the administration. If it’s sexual violence we will go all the way and we won’t stop until the administration does something. If it’s a smaller issue like a student didn’t like her or his grade, then we will try to work something out between the faculty member and the student,” said Stillman.

Western New Mexico University offers reporting and support services for sexual violence survivors as well as emergency care. Students can call campus police and report harassment or assault online at https://reportit.wnmu.edu/  or in the Title IX office. Students can also receive counseling from our WNMU therapist in our Student Health Services office in the Juan Chacon building on the first floor. If a student wishes to receive medical or mental health services outside of WNMU, our community resources include Silver Regional Sexual Assault Support Services, which can be reached at 1-866-750-6474 and La Pinon Sexual Assault Support Services, which can be reached at (575)526-3437. For more information regarding our university’s support services and reporting process, please visit our Title IX office.

If a student had an issue with someone with a high level power such as an administrator, Student Government will attempt to address the issue by going above the administrator up the ranks to try and solve the problem and mediate the situation. No matter the size of the problem, Student Government will listen to the concerns of the students and attempt to solve it.

Students who are interested in becoming involved with Student Government can participate in the spring semester elections. Every year in the spring semester, Student Government sends out an email to all students letting them know they can apply to be a Student Government member. They will have a few weeks to decide if they want to apply and there is a campaigning period for students to gather support.

If a student wants to be considered to be a part of Student Government before the spring semester elections, they should contact the president of Student Government. “They can always email me a letter saying this is who I am, I would love to be a part of student government, and send me their resume. Once they do that I have a list of people. Obviously it’s first come first serve, but if a position ever opens up if someone were to get fired or step down or has to leave because they have too much going on, I pull from that list and I bring them in and I interview them. Whoever I feel is best suited for the job can get the job,” said Stillman.

Students are highly encouraged to get involved with Student Government and other organizations on campus because it greatly contributes to the improvement of our university. If you would like to speak with a member of Student Government, the Associated Students of WNMU offices are located on the third floor of the Student Memorial Building. To learn more about Student Government, information can be found online at https://aswnmu.wnmu.edu/